Heart Healthy Herbs

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Healthy herbs for improved health

Overall health and wellness depends, in part, on a strong, efficient heart and healthy blood vessels. When looking to maintain or improve heart health, certain herbs can effectively support the heart, blood vessels, and cardiovascular system, as shown through research. Traditionally, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have been using medicinal herbs for heart health for thousands of years. Forced to turn to natural resources as healing mechanisms, they discovered the powerful impact of particular herbs in caring for the heart. These cardio-protective effects include lowering cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, balance blood flow, prevent blood clots, and calm and regulate heartbeat.

Let’s take a look at the medicinal properties and health benefits of some popular herbs being used to promote heart health.

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha)

Hawthorn has been used for centuries in Europe and, more recently, hawthorn has gained exposure in North America as a tonic for the heart and blood vessels. It is used to help lower or normalize blood pressure, improve cardiovascular stamina, and improve cholesterol profiles in people with high levels of LDL. In particular, research has shown positive healing benefits for people with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart is in a weakened condition and is likely to continue to decline if no effective treatment is implemented. Exhaustion can be an issue for people with congestive heart failure and other serious diseases, but herbs like hawthorn may help fight this symptom. The herb can improve the ability to exercise (including aerobic performance) as well as promote a positive sense of well-being and decreased feelings of profound fatigue. These kinds of results are important for increasing the chance of recovery from illnesses like congestive heart failure.

The berries, flowers, and leaves of hawthorn are all shown to have medicinal benefits. These parts of the hawthorn plant contain a number of nutrients, such as flavonoids, quercitin, and proanthocyanidins, which have positive effects on the heart and cardiovascular system. Hawthorn not only helps repair a weakened heart and cardiovascular system, but also helps to fortify an already healthy heart and cardiovascular system.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric is another notable herb that promotes a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. This medicinal herb contains strong anti-inflammatory nutrients. It is a potent antioxidant and a free radical scavenger, helping to repair the damage done by inflammation. It is also used as a culinary herb for its flavor and vibrant color and is a key part of the daily cuisine in many parts of the world. It’s a great example of the old saying, “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food.”

Turmeric is rich in healing compounds called curcuminoids, and these nutrients help to quell inflammation that either causes illness or is associated with illness, such as the inflammation that leads to blocked blood vessels, joint pain, atherosclerosis, and a long list of diseases in which inflammation plays a leading role in the destruction of health and wellness.

Resveratrol

Another well-researched nutrient, resveratrol, offers strong antioxidant protection of the heart and blood vessels. It improves energy at the cellular level and helps to optimize aging. Resveratrol can be found in a plant called Japanese knotweed and in the grapes used to make red wine. Your best and most concentrated source, however, is in the form of a supplement.

Garlic

Garlic contains a powerhouse of heart-health benefits. Research shows regular garlic consumption can reduce risks associated with heart disease. Its natural chemicals and compounds relax blood vessels and have anti-inflammatory effects, which may lower blood pressure. Garlic can also improve cholesterol levels by reducing buildup on the walls of arteries – the culprit that can cause clogging leading to cardiovascular diseases like heart attack or stroke. Garlic also has strong antioxidant properties and can reduce oxidative stress, and is also associated with a reduction in hypertension.

Fresh garlic offers the most potent health benefits for your heart. “Freshly crushed garlic generates hydrogen sulfide, a gas that is also generated from rotten egg,” says study coauthor Dipak K. Das, PhD, ScD, a professor and director at the Cardiovascular Research Center. “Although this gas in excess may become poisonous, in small quantities it functions as an intracellular signaling compound and can protect the heart.” He adds: “Both fresh and processed garlic reduced damage from lack of oxygen, but the fresh garlic had a significantly greater effect on restoring good blood flow in the aorta, and it increased pressure in the heart’s left ventricle,” Das says.

Garlic is easy to add to almost any recipe, and should be a staple in your household refrigerator.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon isn’t just delicious on French toast and rice pudding. It is actually an effective herb in combatting cardiovascular disorders. Studies suggest that the compounds in cinnamon have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and antimicrobial properties, and that they might offer protection from cardiovascular disease, among other conditions.

Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties that help the body fight infections and repair tissue damage. According to research, just a 1/5th of a teaspoon of cinnamon per day has beneficial effects on blood markers in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon also reduces levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing levels of HDL cholesterol. It can be effective at decreasing blood pressure as well. Lastly, cinnamon can increase blood circulation, activating your metabolism which promotes weight loss, contributing to overall heart health.

Tea

That afternoon cup of tea might just be what the doctor ordered. According to research, those who drink tea may have a lower risk of a heart attack or cardiovascular-related problems than those who don’t. Both green and black tea are rich in compounds called flavonoids that help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and improve blood vessel function.  But green tea may have a very slight edge over black as far heart health benefits. The powerful antioxidants in green tea especially may help prevent coronary artery disease. This is due to their anti-inflammatory effects on plaque buildup in the bloodstream and arterial walls, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Green tea also contains catechins that work to lower cholesterol and also prevent LDL particles from becoming oxidized.

Black tea does have its own set of virtues, however, producing a set of unique compounds that have their own heart-health benefits. These compounds can lead to significant reductions in blood sugar levels and triglycerides, an increase in HDL cholesterol levels, and increased blood levels of antioxidants. Research has also demonstrated that black tea improves can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Although herbal teas do not contain the same number of antioxidants and health benefits as black and green, they should not be ruled out if you don’t drink caffeine. They are still are a healthy option, with lower concentrations of antioxidants and varying chemical compositions.

Ginseng

One of the most popular herbs in the world, both American and Asian Ginseng have a long list of health benefits. Its therapeutic potential for heart health includes lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and treating diabetes.  Studies have shown it to be beneficial in the control of blood sugar levels, boosting insulin production, and improving insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes. Ginseng shows promise for long-term blood sugar control.

In many studies ginseng has been known to improve blood flow, control blood pressure control, and suppress myocardial infarction and heart failure. Evidence from small trials concludes ginseng may benefit heart failure patients when used as an adjunctive therapy.

Berberine

Berberine is a yellow-colored alkaloid — a compound that has pharmaceutical properties when utilized in the body – and is found in several plants, including Chinese goldthread, American goldthread, common barberry, and goldenseal. Berberine has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for over two millenniums but has only recently surfaced in Western medicine as a potential natural treatment for cardiovascular disease.  Berberine has several positive heart-health benefits. It helps the body maintain healthy glucose and insulin levels, helps balance the intestinal microbiome, maintains a healthy immune system, and keeps healthy triglycerides and HDL cholesterol at optimum levels.

About the Author:

Beverly Yates, ND, is a California-licensed doctor of naturopathic medicine and the author of Heart Health for Black Women: A Natural Approach to Healing and Preventing Heart Disease. Learn more at drbeverlyyates.com.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340156/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5130975/

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/136/3/736S/4664300

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6485276/

 

 

 

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